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Demonstration area valuable asset to the Corps

The Transportation Demonstration Support Area displays an array of vehicles at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Aug. 4, 2011. TDSA serves as the Marine Corps vehicle requisition center. Upgrades and new technology are also displayed for evaluation here. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Wetzel)

If you want to know how the latest pickup truck handles, you can visit your local auto dealer. When the Marine Corps needs to see how a new turret for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle handles on rugged terrain, they visit the Transportation Demonstration Support Area at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

What used to be a little-known area in Quantico is now a viable asset to the Marine Corps. TDSA is the only track of its kind in the National Capital Region. Located on 395 acres with tough obstacles and challenges specifically designed to showcase and demonstrate the latest vehicle and technology developments the Corps and private industry have to offer warfighters.

“The TDSA has had a variety of vehicle prototypes,” said retired Marine Master Sgt. Jack Heric, operations manager of TDSA. “The newest technologies are validated here before they hit Marines in the fleet.”

Most vehicles are demonstrated on the Severe Off-Road Track. The track, built by the National Automotive Center, is used to evaluate vehicles, displaying their capabilities to military personnel and representatives of government agencies. The demonstrations provide military leaders and congress the opportunity to see what’s new.

A HMMWV climbs a 120-foot hill climb up a pyramid, built on steps on the Severe Off-Road Track at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Aug. 4, 2011. The SORT is part of the Transportation Demonstration Support Area, which shows the Marine Corps'€™ latest vehicle and equipment capabilities in rough and adverse terrain. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Wetzel)

The SORT offers a two-mile, off-road course that consists of a figure-eight banked track to demonstrate a vehicle’s ability to traverse on a 40% side slope; three levels of loose, smooth logs to hammer home stability claims; a six-foot deep V-ditch to demonstrate sideways capability of the vehicle tires; and a rock-step incline to reveal vehicle maneuverability up rocky terrain for a suspension ‘work out.’ Additionally, there are two dirt track declines with 90 degree turns at the bottom to validate compression braking ability; a pea gravel pit to challenge tire traction control in sand, and a small boulder climb and railroad tie bump for showcasing maneuverability over very rough terrain.

The course also offers open trails that add variety to demonstrations and prove suspension and handling at higher velocities.

The TDSA mission does not, however, include the formal testing of any equipment. Their mission is to demonstrate capabilities and determine how new ideas and technologies can interoperate with existing vehicles. All initial vehicle and equipment testing are done at proving grounds such as the ones in Yuma, Ariz., or Aberdeen, Md.

The support area staff keep current Marine vehicles on hand to demonstrate how new gear will function with the old gear — meeting the Marine Corps’ ground transportation and mobility requirements.

“It’s a good platform for all the people in the vicinity to come down here to get a hands-on, kick-the-tires, demonstration,” Heric said. “They can ride on the SORT or observe equipment in action.”

Most recently, demonstration support personnel moved an antenna on the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement that was obstructing the driver’s view. The new equipment was then demonstrated to Marines on the SORT for final approval. The key was to figure out how to move the antenna to the rear without violating the integrity of the armor plating, Heric said.

The TDSA also serves as a location to host demonstration events for a variety of government agencies and civilian enterprises.

An experimental Forward-Operating Base, the largest event of its kind, was recently demonstrated for all branches of the U.S. military. The exFOB was set up to identify and evaluate energy efficient capabilities that can reduce risks to Marines and increase combat effectiveness by minimizing fuel convoys, Heric said.  In addition to the exFOB, tactical demonstration experts have evaluated fuel-efficient generators and high kilowatt solar panels in order to understand how they work in harsh weather conditions, from snow, ice or rain to extreme heat and desert conditions.

“The TDSA provides both technical expertise and a flexible location that has been very supportive in evaluating our expeditionary energy acquisition efforts,” said Dave Karcher, director of Energy Systems Division, Marine Corps Systems Command. “We can examine many different types of technologies, under a useful range of environmental conditions in a location convenient to much of the Marine Corps and East Coast commercial companies.”

Not only does it offer its facilities to the Marine Corps and the other branches of service, but it also allows various vendors with new vehicle technology to take advantage of the SORT or as a static display, which allows market research of different technologies for Marine Corps leaders and investors.

“Besides demonstrations and industry days of the different vehicles, we also host special command events,” Heric said. “We take pride in having the best platform for demonstrating technology. It’s easier to figure out a plan here to get the equipment to the warfighters.”

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3 Responses

  1. Brian says:

     I was Vehicle recovery and when i was in OIF-2. I would not let the Marines drive past. if there was room or you guys was heading the same way and needed gear taken we would help.. No point wasting space or killing your back.. Sorry that some was ID10T waivers! 
    Semper Fi
    Sgt G. USMC 98-06

  2. Jeff Brewer says:

    Those vehicles are awesome! I remember thinking that as they drove past us 0311…

  3. carl says:

    Yall Marines Rock Thank you for your Service I SALUTE YOU ALL!!!